Gov. Kathy Hochul doubled down on state plans to reduce gun violence in the aftermath of Buffalo's mass shooting over the weekend, dismissing questions Wednesday about gubernatorial opponent U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi's calls for Hochul to be held accountable for her high favorability rating with the National Rifle Association during her tenure in Congress in the early 2010s.
Suozzi and running mate Diana Reyna for lieutenant governor said Hochul is a hypocrite for criticizing Congress for failing to enact more strict gun laws after Saturday's shooting that killed 10 people and injured three others. The NRA endorsed Hochul in 2012 when she ran, and lost, the race for the 27th Congressional District seat to Republican Chris Collins. Hochul had an "A" rating with the NRA and for a House voting record to protect the Second Amendment and rights of gun owners, including voting in favor of a law to allow people with a valid permit to carry their concealed weapon in any U.S. state.
"I don't know why people aren't talking about that and why she hasn't addressed that," Suozzi said. "Hochul is talking how Congress did not act in 2012 and she was in Congress right around that time and she was endorsed by the NRA. It's really the height of hypocrisy."
Hochul brushed off a question about her past NRA endorsement Wednesday during a press conference in New York City where she announced several executive orders and gun control legislation to help identify and stop radical white supremacist rhetoric fueling racist attacks across the nation.
"This is not the time to talk about that," the governor said. "I will tell you what I'm doing right now as governor of the state of New York. There will be no state that has tougher, more thoughtful polices, practices and laws in place in response to not just what happened in Buffalo, New York, but what is happening every single day in the streets of places like Rochester, Syracuse, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem, and everywhere else where I have gone for eight years as lieutenant governor to countless funerals."
Suozzi demanded Hochul be held accountable for her change of heart on gun control.
"We can no longer accept the moral bankruptcy of talking about change while carrying the gun lobby's water," he said.
Officials are investigating why authorities did not catch wind of the shooter's plans amid a failure of the state's Red Flag law, which permits people close to someone to apply for an Extreme Risk Protection Order if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
"We're going to find out what happened there," Hochul said Wednesday of a red flag probe.
If a judge grants the order, police can confiscate the person's guns and flag them on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent them from purchasing firearms for one year. About 1,300 have been granted in the state since the law took effect in 2019.
Suozzi and Reyna also sharply criticized Hochul for failing to educate law enforcement and the public about the law and not implementing the measure.
Hochul countered she traveled around the state championing the Red Flag law's passage three years ago when she was lieutenant governor.
"I have made this my calling because too many lives have been lost," Hochul said. "I will continue to make sure New York state leads on this and be an example to other states and hopefully to shame the federal government into doing what they should have done years ago."
Hochul has typically stopped short of discussing politics or responding to other public officials' statements in the press.
"I assure you I'm not paying attention to accusations or any other messaging, however, it's conveyed by someone running for office," she said Wednesday. "This is not a time for politics, and if people don't realize that, well, I'll let the media judge and everyone else can judge the propriety of having those attacks that are absolutely unrelated to what happened here. I won't even comment any further."
Representatives with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign referred to the governor’s statements made at Wednesday’s press conference and did respond to an additional request for comment.